Prototype 2 Gameplay PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 05, 2011
After finishing work on the supercharged, open-world, action-fest Prototype, the developers at Radical Entertainment took a good hard look at what fans and critics alike had to say about the game. Taking the good with the bad, the team used the game’s somewhat mixed reception as a launching pad to begin work on Prototype 2. And launch they did.
Activision and Radical gave us our first look at the gleefully visceral and over-the-top sequel at a recent pre-E3 showcase. While Prototype 2 does adhere to the same free-roaming, infestation-based gameplay of the first game, it tells a very different type of story with a new protagonist, Joseph Heller, at the center of it. Prototype 2 producer Jonathan Lim describes Heller as a man “forced to become the thing that he hates to save the city that he loved and, more importantly, avenge the family he lost.” His wife and daughter died 14 months earlier as a result of the viral outbreak that has spread across New York City. Seeing the conflict from Heller’s perspective will not only flesh out the narrative universe of Prototype, but it will also broaden the gameplay options as well. While Alex Mercer, the star of the previous game, was a conflicted anti-hero being guided along by others, Heller is a focused and strong character who embraces his powers with gusto and who will listen to no one but himself on his journey for revenge.
The game is set in New York City, only thanks the devastation that has befallen it, it is now known as New York Zero (no calories, but a lot more death), and it’s been divided into three islands in varying states of decay. Manhattan has been classified as the Red Zone, and has become overrun and overgrown by viral organisms, essentially making a disease-ridden urban jungle. The Yellow Zone island sits just off of Manhattan. It’s not as nasty as the Red Zone, but it has been quarantined and is packed to the brim with people who have been trapped there. The Green Zone is the most hospitable of the zones, but it’s under martial law by the evil, private military group Blackwatch, which brings with it a whole different set of horrors and struggles.
Our gameplay demo took place in the Green Zone, and kicked off with Blackwatch mowing down a crowd of civilians who had gathered to protest as a way to tell us loud and clear, these aren’t good guys. Our target is a nearby scientist who we need to consume in order to find out what he knows about some piece of technology he was scanning in the courtyard below. To clear out the surrounding Blackwatch agents, Heller employs the new Biobomb, which lets him turn anyone into a devastating supernova of sorts, sucking in any nearby objects using giant tentacles and then blasting it all to pieces in a glorious explosion.
So with the area sufficiently annihilated, Heller hops on the scientist and proceeds to beat him to a bloody pulp and consumes him in the process. Like in Prototype, Heller is able to inhabit anyone in the game world by viciously ripping into them. Sometimes, like with this scientist, doing so gives Heller access to that character’s memories. In this case, we get a snippet of story suggesting that some government scientists have found a way to add additional side effects to the virus, hinting at how Heller, and perhaps even his enemies, will be able to upgrade and improve his abilities. Later on, we are shown one such mutation, which extends Heller’s air boost.
We then jump into Blacknet, a network that Heller can access via mobile hubs scattered around the city to find out new mission objectives and to keep track of the operations being carried out by Blackwatch and GenTek, the company behind the viral outbreak. Each hub brings with it a series of targets that Heller must consume in order to access new rewards. So for our first target, we use the hunting mechanic, which just sends out a sonar wave that bounces off our target and highlights them, making for a very easy hunt.
After dealing with him, Heller takes off, sprinting up the side of a building and flying through the air with ease. Fans of the first game’s free flowing maneuvering will be happy to know that little has changed, and you can fully expect to be pulling off high-flying acrobatics up, across, off, and around the world with ease. Moving along we get our next objective, which is to locate a commander piloting one of two tanks in the area. Our next fight gives us a chance to see two of Heller’s new abilities. The first is the tendrils power, a rather nasty ability that shoots goopy strings of viral material that then sticks to any nearby surface and traps anyone unlucky enough to be hit by it. The other lets Heller rip off any vehicle mounted gun (i.e. a missile launching tank turret) and either use it or turn it into a projectile weapon. In our demo, Heller not only rips off the turret with ease, but then launches himself into the air, firing missiles back down at the turret-less tank below, all in one fluid motion.
The last portion of the demo took us to a lair, aka an “underground treasure chest” invested by infected creatures of all shapes and sizes, from typical ghoul-like enemies to massive fire demons. With enemies pouring in from all sides, Heller proceeds to tear them apart with his much improved blade arm, which lets him hack and slash his way through crowds like a hot knife through a…crowd of butter? The point is the dismemberment is quite vicious, and even with a ton of enemies on screen at once, the pre-alpha build held its own.
To cap off the demo, Radical briefly showed off yet another new enemy, the Behemoth. Our introduction to the behemoth came by way of a sequence in which we watched as the city block wide and tall beast charged towards us, tossing cars and people through the air like they were pieces of Styrofoam and leaving massive levels of destruction in its wake, as Heller leapt from car to car in attempt to outrun the charging...well, behemoth. With the gnarly force bearing down, the demo came to an explosive end.
Obviously, the folks at Radical know exactly what fans dug about the first game, and are doing their best to stay true to the over-the-top, stress-relieving formula that characterized Prototype while also trying to expand the gameplay to make it a much richer and more varied experience this time around. From the little we saw, it certainly looks on track to do so, but we’ll have to wait until we see more, and get our hands on it, to know for sure.
Prototype 2 is set for release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012.